Ansel Adams, whose devotion to clarity, precision, and sharp focus made him, in the words of the New York Times, “the most widely exhibited and recognized photographer of his generation,” transcended his popular appeal to make important contributions to photographic technology, to the environmental movement and, in the last analysis, to the fine art of landscape photography. He was a contemporary and colleague of Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham and was responsible for at least thirty-five books and portfolios. In 1980 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter.
Adams was born in San Francisco in 1902 and set out on a career as a concert pianist. While working as a musician he met Albert Bender who took him to Taos where Adams met Robinson Jeffers, John Marin, and Georgia O’Keefe. Nancy Newhall, Adams’ biographer, said “Taos was his Paris and his Rome.” His first book after that trip was Taos Pueblo printed at the Grabhorn Press in 1930 and containing twelve black-and-white photographs printed by Adams himself.
Alfred Stieglitz, quite famously connected to the artists’ community of Taos, gave Adams a one-man show at An American Place in New York in 1936, and it was the first one-show Stieglitz had done for a photographer since Paul Strand two decades earlier. His work continued to be appreciated throughout his long life both by the public and by curators of major arts institutions. Given his popularity and how prolific he was, the list of museums holding his work in their permanent collections is literally beyond counting.
Adams has remained an important artist since his death in 1984. This year a retrospective was organized at the Museum of Modern Art P.S. 1 entitled “Ansel Adams: The Politics of Contemplation,” which featured his well-known photographs of Western landscapes and soaring mountain ranges. Earlier, on the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2002, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in cooperation with MoMA, organized “Ansel Adams at 100” which featured his less well known portraiture and other work made in the 1920s and 1930s. This show included the work shown in his celebrated portfolio Taos Pueblo.
Books with Ansel Adams available from Boreas Fine Art:
[ Adams, Ansel ] Austin, Mary. Taos Pueblo. Boston: New York Graphic Society. 1977.
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